An Inside Look at D23: Disney’s Big Announcements

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Star Wars concept art

There’s no brand with fans more fanatically devoted than Disney. Visit a park and watch people happily strolling Main Street USA wearing themed T-shirts with mouse ears perched upon their heads. It’s no surprise that Disney has given rise to one of the industry’s most hardcore fan conventions. D23, a Comic-Con like event for diehard Disney fans, took over the Anaheim Convention Center earlier this month. Disney execs and stars came out in force and the company made some big announcements about future plans to delight fans of all ages.

The 2015 convention featured big names like Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford. Different parts of the organization also unveiled upcoming plans for content and attraction development. One area explored was Disney’s future film plans. From an entertainment design perspective, this information is highly relevant as it could be shaping everything from future ride design to Meet and Greets for years to come. Just consider the impact of Frozen over the past eighteen months.

Toy Story Land

Disney’s upcoming line-up features Gigantic, a reimagining of the “Jack and Beanstalk” fairy tale. Gigantic is putting Jack into the context of Spain during the age of exploration (roughly the late 16th or 17th centuries). The movie follows him on his adventures as he discovers a race of giants living in the clouds. The team behind the production includes the director of Tangled and original songwriting from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the duo behind “Let It Go.” Other major announcements regarding animation include a forthcoming version of Toy Story 4 and a new film called Coco, a Dia De Les Muertos film, described as “the celebration of a lifetime, where the discovery of a generations-old mystery leads to a most extraordinary and surprising family reunion.”

In the live action space, there’s another Pirates of the Caribbean film in the works. In 2016, the company is set to release a hybrid reimagining of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The movie seems to be heading in the direction of Avatar stylistically, integrating both live action and CGI. Quotes were thrown around at D23 that suggest it could be one of the most technologically advanced films ever made. Others who saw early film footage note that it’s stunning. The Jungle Book could be playing a bigger role in Disney IP in parks in years ahead, if the movie makes as big a splash as it seems poised to. New films will be hitting theaters from the Star Wars world, as well as Marvel Studios.

The Iron Man Experience

We were most anxious to see what announcements came from the theme park side, and D23 didn’t disappoint:

  • Star Wars Land is coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Fans got to see exclusive concept art and received some advanced previews. Star Wars Land will focus on an immersive environment of a new planet, while offering some classic experiences such as joining Han Solo aboard the Millennium Falcon.
  • Star Wars: Launch Bay is an experience slated for Hollywood Studios and Disneyland that will take guests inside the upcoming Star Wars movie.
  • Hyperspace Mountain will be a limited edition annual event that reimagines Space Mountain at Disneyland as an X-Wing Starfighter battle, using advanced projection technology.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios is experiencing major changes, with the addition of an 11-acre Toy Story Land. Unsurprisingly, much of the attractions are family friendly such as a Slinky Dog roller coaster.
  • The first Marvel attraction at any Disney park is the Iron Man Experience. The Iron Man Experience is currently under construction at Hong Kong Disneyland. If the comic movie mania stays strong, we anticipate this is the beginning of a number of attractions throughout the parks.
  • Guests also got a preview of Shanghai Disneyland’s Tron Light Cycle attraction, which explores what it’s like to ride a light cycle through the world of Tron.

The takeaways from D23 are exciting. Disney isn’t a brand that stagnates, and there’s plenty of innovation coming. Beloved franchises continue to offer new experiences across formats, from movies to theme parks. The theme parks are making major investments in new areas, and exploring how attractions from worlds such as Star Wars do in the theme park context. It’s going to be a busy year ahead at the parks. Check back for the latest coverage and analysis on what’s happening with Disney and other parks.

 Images sourced courtesy of Disney. All images and rights reserved by Walt Disney Company.

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